Steve McCurry: easily one of the most iconic photographers of all time.
Here are practical lessons that McCurry has taught me about photography:
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1. Each picture standing on it’s own
“What is important to my work is the individual picture. I photograph stories on assignment, and of course they have to be put together coherently. But what matters most is that each picture stands on its own, with its own place and feeling”
In today’s world, photography projects are essentially dead. Social media has disintegrated the photo project; we live in a society of single images on social media.
In one way, the single image is incredibly important. It can embed itself into our memories, and evoke strong feelings of wonder in the world.
My practical suggestion is this:
Work on photography projects which are meaningful to you, but also include photos in your projects as if they were single photos.
2. Capture the soul of people
Most of my photos are grounded in people, I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. – Steve McCurry
Ultimately, I think photographing people is more interesting and meaningful than photographing places. Why? Philosophically, I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than the human being.
To find more fulfillment in your photography, I encourage you to photograph more human beings!
3. Use your camera as a tool of hope!
For those who were desperate, my camera became an object of hope (…) Throughout my year-long coverage of the monsoon world, my strongest conviction was that I was involved in the fundamentals of life. – Steve McCurry
Be an optimistic, hopeful photographer. Love life, and make your photos affirm life!
4. The camera will open up yourself to the world!
My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport. – Steve McCurry
Open your eyes, heart, and soul to the world — the camera is your passport.
5. Photography transcends spoken language
The photograph is an undeniably powerful medium. Free from the constraints of language, and harnessing the unique qualities of a single moment frozen in time. – Steve McCurry
Photography is amazing: you can communicate with anyone in the world with photographs!
6. Show slices of ordinary and beautiful life through your photos
A picture can express a universal humanism, or simply reveal a delicate and poignant truth by exposing a slice of life that might otherwise pass unnoticed. – Steve McCurry
7. Don’t lose hope in photography
In our contemporary society, one so over-inundated with imagery, it is easy to overlook the power of a single frame to change the way we look at the world, or rally disparate hearts to a single cause. Yet, ours is a society shaped by this very phenomenon. – Steve McCurry
8. Your photos have the ability to profoundly influence others!
There are certain, inescapable images, forever part of our collective consciousness, that influence who we are, whether we are cognizant of it or not. – Steve McCurry
9. Make photos that burn themselves into the mind of your viewer!
A still photograph is something which you can always go back to. You can put it on your wall and look at it again and again. Because it is that frozen moment. I think it tends to burn into your psyche. It becomes ingrained in your mind. A powerful picture becomes iconic of a place or a time or a situation. – Steve McCurry
10. Be patient
“If you wait, people will forget your camera, and the soul will drift up into view.”
11. Photograph what is important to you
“It’s important for you to spend your time photographing things that matter to you. You need to understand the things that have meaning to you, and not what others think is important for you.”
Shoot what’s important to you. Ask yourself, “Do I like my own photos?” And if nobody would ever see your photos, what would you photograph for yourself?
More of my favorite photos by Steve McCurry:
Learn from the Masters
Dear friend, if you haven’t heard the exciting news already– MASTERS is now available as both a and print edition!
Timeless wisdom from the masters of street photography.
“He without a past has no future.”
- Why Study the Masters of Photography?
- Great Female Master Photographers
- Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
- 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
- Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography
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The Masters of Photography
Classics never die:
- Akira Kurosawa
- Alexander Rodchenko
- Alfred Stieglitz
- Alec Soth
- Alex Webb
- Alexey Brodovitch
- Anders Petersen
- Andre Kertesz
- Ansel Adams
- Blake Andrews
- Bruce Davidson
- Bruce Gilden
- Constantine Manos
- Daido Moriyama
- Dan Winters
- David Alan Harvey
- David Hurn
- Diane Arbus
- Dorothea Lange
- Edward Weston
- Elliott Erwitt
- Ernst Haas
- Eugene Atget
- Eugene Smith
- Fan Ho
- Garry Winogrand
- Gilles Peress
- Gordon Parks
- Helen Levitt
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Irving Penn
- Jacob Aue Sobol
- Jeff Mermelstein
- Joel Meyerowitz
- Joel Sternfeld
- Josef Koudelka / Part 2
- Josh White
- László Moholy-Nagy
- Lee Friedlander
- Lisette Model
- Magnum Contact Sheets
- Magnum Photographers
- Mark Cohen
- Martin Parr
- Martine Franck
- Mary Ellen Mark
- Nan Goldin
- Philip Jones Griffiths
- Rene Burri
- Richard Avedon
- Richard Kalvar
- Robert Capa
- Robert Frank
- Saul Leiter
- Sergio Larrain
- Sebastião Salgado
- Shomei Tomatsu
- Stephen Shore
- The History of Street Photography
- Todd Hido
- Tony Ray-Jones
- Trent Parke
- Vivian Maier
- Walker Evans
- William Eggleston
- William Klein
- Zoe Strauss
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